WASHINGTON -- The White House waited for more than 24 hours before giving federal investigators the scraps of torn-up notes found Monday in the briefcase of Vincent W. Foster Jr., the deputy White House counsel who committed suicide on July 20.
Dee Dee Myers, the White House press secretary, said top officials had decided to show the document to President Clinton and to Mr. Foster's widow before sharing its contents with the Justice Department. Ms. Myers said that Mr. Foster had apparently written the notes to himself and that they indicated a troubled state of mind.
Steve Neuwirth, an associate White House counsel, found the scraps as he emptied Mr. Foster's briefcase Monday afternoon, Ms. Myers said. She explained that the small pieces of paper were at the bottom of the satchel and had not been noticed earlier, and she said the White House did not telephone the Justice Department to report the discovery until Tuesday evening.
"We wanted to make sure the family had been informed and the president had been informed," Ms. Myers said.
The White House refused to make a copy of the document public or to specify what was in it. Ms. Myers said the Justice Department had directed the White House not to release its contents because it was part of the investigation.
Ms. Myers would say only that the letter "did show him to be in a distressed state of mind or troubled state of mind" about work. Other administration officials said it appeared to reflect anger and confusion on the part of Mr. Foster about public criticism of the counsel's office.
The White House for the first time yesterday described Mr. Foster as having been depressed shortly before his death in a roadside park. But Ms. Myers said Mr. Foster had spent parts of most weekend days this month at work in the White House, and she questioned a New York Times report in which a person close to the Fosters said Mr. Foster had spent reclusive weekends working at home in bed.